The U.S. is a critical market for SAP. But it wasn’t until this week that SAP Anywhere, the firm’s eCommerce-as-a-Service solution, entered the U.S. market, despite having already launched in China and the U.K. Why? According to SAP Anywhere Senior Vice President and General Manager EJ Jackson, the U.S. market is so important to SAP, and the needs of SMEs in commencing their digital sales strategies are so complex, that SAP wanted to make sure they got it right – the first time.
With successes in two other markets, SAP Anywhere now feels confidence to service the U.S. But whether they’re in Silicon Valley or Beijing, setting up an online storefront is no big deal today.
As Jackson pointed out, for $19 a month, a small business can sign up for a GoDaddy account, get a website and create a working online store.
The problem, Jackson said, is that small businesses reach a point at which the simple digital storefront won’t suffice.
“Small businesses hit that inflection point where they outgrow it,” Jackson explained in a recent discussion with PYMNTS. “You can get a website and a shopping card, but a business begins to have additional requirements beyond that.”
Naturally, as a company develops it needs more robust solutions to manage customers, handle inventory and gain insight into their overall business performance through data analytics. They become interested in social media, digital marketplaces and other sales channels, too.
What Jackson sees, however, is also a rising tide of small businesses that begin to work with other businesses as they mature.
“We are finding that, when we look at the majority of customers in this segment, it’s our belief that one-in-two either already do B2B and B2C, or intend to do both B2B and B2C,” the executive said.
So while small businesses need to manage their omnichannel sales efforts as they mature, these companies also explore how to capture the business customer alongside individual consumers – and B2B sales requires a whole other ballgame of back-office solutions and front-facing sales strategy.
Capabilities like social media marketing and in-store pickup are key for successful eCommerce B2C sales. But when small businesses start selling to other businesses, Jackson noted, their eStores must also include another set of pricing scales on the front-end, as well as solutions like CRM behind the scenes.
Jackson described SAP’s eCommerce-as-a-Service strategy as one that targets this “sweet spot” of combining B2B and B2C efforts.
But the biggest hurdle for businesses that begin to expand their sales horizons? Real-time inventory management, Jackson stated, which becomes more difficult to grasp when balancing B2C and B2B sales through a multitude of channels.
“You have so many different points, from an order management standpoint, affecting inventory,” he said. “The world is centric around inventory. Real-time inventory is one of the challenges most SMEs have – it relates to everything you do in the front office.”
A wholesale order of, say, 75 bicycles to a company is going to fall through when a seller only has 50 left due to in-store traffic and online sales, Jackson explained. Just as a major B2B order is either all-or-nothing, customers, whether they’re consumers or businesses, are either giving sellers an A rating, or an F – there’s no in-between, the executive continued.
A poor customer experience can break a business, and oftentimes, Jackson said, ensuring customer satisfaction is directly linked to inventory management.
“Inventory and order management is a critical aspect of whatever you’re doing in the business,” he said. “It’s about having the truth behind what you have or don’t have to sell.”
On a broader scale, eCommerce-as-a-Service’s ability to link the front office to the back office means abandoning legacy processes that can slow a company down. For SAP, said Jackson, that means getting companies away from having to manually link all of their systems – from online sales to managing inventory to CRM.
“A customer needs to stop using Excel as the glue that holds everything together, this hodgepodge of systems,” he stated.
Sure, launching an eCommerce strategy that can handle omnichannel sales and meet the needs of both business and consumer shoppers is no cakewalk. But Jackson said small businesses today should embrace the nearly unreasonable demands that today’s customers have. The digital transformation everyone talks about is already here, he said, and SMEs need to get on board.
“The digital transformation is often referred to as a forward-looking phenomenon, and my belief is it’s largely a historical and present phenomenon,” Jackson said. “The majority of it has already happened.”
The ROI on investing in eCommerce-as-a-Service solutions can be massive, however.
“Rather than being feared, you’d be foolish not to take advantage of the opportunity,” Jackson argued about small businesses’ challenges in providing adequate digital offerings. “The pressure is there on the small business to really evolve and adapt very quickly – but the rewards are there for them, too.”